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Explore This IssueAugust 2011
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Large medical schools such as Duke University in Durham, N.C., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York have all opened (or are about to open) campuses abroad. Other schools are supporting the development of medical schools abroad. Still others are encouraging more students to participate in global exchange programs and more faculty to take sabbaticals to teach abroad.
Although rheumatology is only one part of the medical school curriculum, the subspecialty still benefits from participating in these growing collaborations.
The Lure of Medical Study Abroad
Just why are international campuses becoming more common?
Money is one factor, says Alan Robin, MD, associate professor of international health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and associate professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute. With costly medical school tuitions, sometimes students from other countries can more easily afford to pay for their education—or have their government pay for it, as is common in countries like Saudi Arabia. Participating schools from the United States and from host countries typically negotiate to earn a percentage of the tuition paid, Dr. Robin says. He has worked with a number of international studies and collaborations.
However, there are other motivations for opening international campuses or forging similar partnerships, says John Prescott, MD, chief academic officer for the American Association of Medical Colleges, based in Washington, D.C. The collaborations “add to prestige, provide research connections, and help others learn from colleagues around the world,” Dr. Prescott says. “It reflects the globalization trend seen in many other areas, including business and education.”
Depending on the setup, research collaborations can enable physicians usually based in the United States to study conditions more common in the host country. For example, says Dr. Robin, it may be easier to study an ophthalmic condition called pseudoexfoliation syndrome in a country like India, where approximately 30,000 cases associated with cataracts are seen in each year—a much larger number than in the United States, Dr. Robin says. In rheumatology, diseases such as familial Mediterranean fever are more commonly seen abroad. A partnership with a local university makes that study all the more easier. “Participants see diseases and patients they have only heard about or read about in a textbook,” Dr. Prescott says.
Access to international universities also makes it easier to study drugs that may not be approved yet in the United States, he adds.